The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office issued a press release Wednesday announcing that two veteran Los Angeles Police Department officers are facing multiple charges after being accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting four women, often while on police duty, over a 3-year period.
According to the press release, LAPD Officers James Nichols, 44, and Luis Valenzuela, 43, were arrested by detectives Wednesday morning.
The press release stated:
“Beginning in December 2008, after they became partners, and continuing through March 2011, the two men allegedly began sexually assaulting women at various locations, including in their police vehicle, prosecutors said. All four women were arrested at various times by the officers during narcotics-related offenses.
At the time the alleged assaults occurred, the victims were 19, 24, 25 and 34 years of age. Most, but not all, of the alleged sexual assaults occurred while the officers were on duty.
Nichols and Valenzuela are charged with multiple counts each of sexual assaults, including forcible rape, rape under color of authority, oral copulation under color of authority and oral copulation by force.
In addition, Valenzuela is charged with one count of assault with a firearm for allegedly pointing a gun at one of the victims. The complaint alleges multiple victim allegations and principal armed as to each defendant.
If convicted, Nichols and Valenzuela each face up to life in state prison.”
Bail for both Nichols and Valenzuela have been set at $3 million each, according to CBS Los Angeles.
The arrest of the officers follows an investigative report made three years ago by the Los Angeles Times. In January 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that Nichols and Valenzuela were under investigation for sexual assault against four women. The officers, who were working as partners as narcotics detectives, allegedly knew the women from making previous arrests.
“The pair repeatedly used the threat of jail to get women into their car and drove them to secluded areas where one of the officers demanded sex while the other kept watch, the warrant alleges,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The first accusation occurred in 2010 when a woman contacted authorities about Nichols and Valenzuela allegedly threatening her with prison time if she refused to comply with their demands.
The Los Angeles Times noted in their 2013 report that investigators “identified four women who encountered the pair and made similar independent accusations against them.”
At a news conference Wednesday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said that “These two officers have disgraced themselves. They disgraced this badge. They disgraced their oath of office,” and he also said Nichols and Valenzuela “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims.”
Nichols and Valenzuela are scheduled to appear in court for arraignment on Thursday.